Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Community or Custody?" Why probation can be tougher, more effective than incarceration

The question in the title of this post comes from an interesting BBC story about debates in the UK over the effectiveness of imprisonment vs. probation, or what there are called "community" sentences. Wrote columnist Mark Easton:
Journalists sometimes characterise a court's use of such a measure as the offender "escaping prison" - the suggestion being that only depriving the criminal of his or her liberty amounts to a suitably rigorous punishment.

Custody and community are often seen as polar opposites in the justice lexicon: custody is tough; community is soft; prison is properly punitive; probation is a let-off.

The very word "community" has become associated in the minds of some with indulgent and misplaced compassion, a dangerously naive belief in the essential goodness of society.
It is cast as a left-right thing too, of course. Spiky traditionalists demand punitive sanctions. Fluffy liberals want care and rehabilitation. 
Sounds familiar, huh? But Easton reports that conservative leaders in Britain are moving away from such cliched dichotomies, citing in particular a new public policy report (pdf) with a foreward authored by a leading conservative thinker:
The criminal justice think-tank Make Justice Work wanted to introduce some rationality into this debate and a year ago assembled a panel of experts to consider "community or custody".

The commission included senior figures from across the criminal justice system and was headed by the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne, an influential figure in shaping conservative thinking.

Today we see the fruits of their labour, a unanimous report with Oborne invited to write the foreword however he saw fit.

"The first point that became shatteringly clear was that alternatives to prison are not a soft option as so often portrayed," he says.

Bemoaning the way "the debate is framed in favour of those who urge long prison sentences", he says his conclusion at the end of his year-long study is that "Ken Clarke's revolution is the most intelligent and realistic answer to many of the most intractable problems in the criminal justice system".

If other members of the committee had written that - former prisons inspector Dame Anne Owers or former Met commissioner Lord Blair for example - I suspect their words would have been quickly dismissed as woolly liberal propaganda.

But Oborne is part of the Tory establishment: independent minded but a man who understands and respects the way conservatives think.

The committee's report focuses on the problem of persistent, low-level offenders "who are currently filling our prisons to breaking point - and who leave prison only to offend again, and again". (For the perpetrators of serious and violent crime, the panel agreed, "custody is the only just and effective punishment".)

The conclusion is that rigorous community programmes not only deliver "real reductions in reoffending" they can also "cut crime at a fraction of the cost of prison".
Latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that non-custodial sentences are up to 9% more effective at preventing reoffending than short prison terms and today's report points out that while a three month prison sentence costs around £11,000, a year-long intensive community justice course costs half of that.
I find this commentary especially notable because Britain's incarceration rate is so much lower than the United States', much less Texas'. (England's per 100,000 incarceration rate is 153, Newsweek reported Monday, compared to 743 in the US.) So if they're incarcerating more people than is justified based on a pure cost-benefit analysis, imagine how many prison inmates here might have been better served by strong probation programs! Looking at the report (pdf), Osborne's foreword is especially remarkable for his recognition that probation or "community" sentences can be "tougher" than prison:
The first point that became shatteringly clear was that alternatives to prison are not a soft option so often portrayed. In Manchester the Intensive Alternative to Custody Project was incredibly impressive and really opened my eyes.

Here young criminals were given very demanding community work. They were monitored night and day. They were obliged to confront their alcohol and drug problems- the issues that had typically got them into trouble in the first place. I was hugely impressed by the social worker who dealt with the offenders’ families. Again and again by talking to parents and siblings she would identify the deep problems that had sent offenders down a life of crime- and then mobilise families to provide support.

A number of the offenders at this Manchester course told us that it would have been much easier to have gone to prison for three months, and that some people did indeed make the decision to drop out and go to jail. But for those who did fully participate in the very intrusive and challenging twelve month alternative programme the rewards were huge.
By the end of it they had often been found jobs. They were far less likely to commit another crime and by the end some were well on the way to becoming fully-fledged members of society. It is perfectly true, as Conservative MPs in particular like to claim, that prisoners cannot commit crimes while in jail. But they are far more likely to reoffend when they have served their term than those who have been given an alternative punishment. At the woman’s project we visited in Bradford the reoffending rate is between 5-10%.

Furthermore the costs do not bear comparison. Three months in prison costs a bare minimum of £11,000 - the full 12 month Manchester course is approximately half that.
Sitting in a jail cell isn't that hard compared to confronting bad habits, addiction, working a steady job and eliminating negative influences in one's life. Indeed, too often prison is little more than an easy substitute for requiring offenders to do those things. Everyone would be better off - victims, offenders and taxpayers - with a justice system which recognized that fact and focused on changing behaviors, where possible, instead of mere punishment/incapacitation.

Britain also is apparently putting a lot more state resources into "community" sentences, whereas, for example, in Texas the majority of local probation department funding comes from probationer fees. If the Manchester program costs half what incarceration does in the UK, in Texas we spend far less than they do on probation programming. According to the LBB's Uniform Cost Report, in 2010 imprisonment cost the state an average of $50.79 per day, compared to $2.92 for probation - more than a 17-1 ratio. The Manchester program sounds impressive, but it doesn't sound free. Since they incarcerate so much less than we do, though, the money "saved" can be spent on probation and still cost (a lot) less than the justice system in the US. Similarly, this blog has long advocated reforming Texas' justice system by closing our most expensive prison units, reducing incarceration rates, and reinvesting the savings in strong probation programs like those described here. We don't need to spend more money, we need to spend it smarter.

Finally, if regrettably, I don't expect the American media any time soon to embrace Mr. Osborne's realization that their "reporting is often loaded" or that "the debate is framed in favour of those who urge long prison sentences," though the same thing is true of American crime reporting, in spades. The flaws that cause that dynamic are too deeply engrained in the structure of how American news stories are typically written (a subject I've been thinking about a lot lately, but which will have to wait for another day). Still, it's good to see memes the Right on Crime movement among American conservatives developed even more fully among their counterparts across the Atlantic.


BarkGrowlBite said...

Grits, let's not get too excited over this story. I don't know what the Brits consider low-level non-serious crimes. In any event that's the U.K., not the U.S.

If the claims are to be believed, probation in the U.K. is comprehensive with strict 'daily' supervision.

As a retired professor of criminal justice and a former California state parole agent, I can tell you that in the U.S., probation is a joke. Actual supervision of probationers is minimal at best and often relies more on office visits than on actual field visits. The same can be said of parole.

And in California, parole is about to become extinct because of the state's budgetary woes. That state's non-serious, non-violent, low-risk parolees are being arrested daily by cops for murders, armed robberies, rape and other serious felonies.

California's public safety would have been better served had those non-serious, non-violent, low-risk misclassified (by computer programs) inmates been kept in prison.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BGB, you could beef up probation supervision a LOT and still have it be cheaper than incarceration. If probation means only collecting fees at a once a month visit, then you're right it's a "joke." But stronger probation models like those used in specialty courts and on intensive supervision caseloads (much less programs like the one in Manchester) have a lot more tools to influence behavior, and there's pretty strong evidence out there that the approach can be effective.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

“Sitting in a jail cell isn't that hard compared to confronting bad habits, addiction, working a steady job and eliminating negative influences in one's life.”

Well written Grits. Doing time is much less effort than getting your shit together. We seem to practice a very lazy criminal justice system especially in Texas. It doesn’t take much effort to simply send a person to prison any more than it does for a person to sit in prison.

Community supervision may be way less expensive with a much higher ROI but in our criminal justice system its way to much effort to work with a person to teach them to fish, and much easier to just toss them a fish. What happens when we run out of fish to toss to prosecutors, judges, probation officers, correction personnel, convicts. Well in Texas we take it from public education. Today, feeding our lazy ass criminal justice system has a higher priority in Texas than our most precious form of idolatry, football. In example, all those 7th graders who should be playing football are out running the streets, potentially becoming fodder for our lazy ass criminal justice job corps.

Who can say that Texas A&M’s potential in the next 8 years to field a championship team is lost because of these budget cuts in education by one of their former cheer leaders. Instead of playing 7th grade football they were out running the streets, eventually going to tyc to become bait for correction worker pedophiles and going on to TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

Here is another UK perspective on supervision:

Anonymous said...

I see many offenders choose time over "paper" because they don't want to or don't think they can complete a community sentence.

Actual supervision of offenders is directly correlated to funding, IMHO.

Prison Doc said...

It's a shame that this story is out of the UK rather than being domestic, since the recent unrest in the UK doesn't make them the gold standard for criminal justice.

However, those who think that probation is nothing, or is getting off light, really don't know much about probation--the expense, the monitoring, the disruption to normal's a definite penalty though not as cruel and stifling as a stay in prison.

Right now in the US corrections wastes a hell of a lot of money at the local, state, and federal level and I still hope that our coming financial difficulties may get folks to look at the need for reform.

ckikerintulia said...

Those soft Brits don't have nuthin to teach us tuff Texans. Need to fry a few more.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon... are you a complete idiot or are you just trying to be funny? That had to be about the dumbest post I have seen on this blog.

sunray's wench said...

I always find it fascinating to see how other countries report things that happen in the UK. We often have news reports about things around the world, and we're very outward looking in our ways, unlike America which appears to be very inward looking.

BGB - Probation for some offenders is daily, but not all. We still treat people as individuals here, justice is not quite the machine it has become in the US. I would suggest that "low-level non-serious crimes" are the same either side of the pond though; burglary, theft (particularly shoplifting), benefit fraud, criminal damage, repeated driving offences etc.

The big difference between the UK and US on probation (and parole) is that in the UK we don't charge the offenders for the priviledge. People can be fined by the courts, and often are, but probation is not a priviledge that can be "bought". People here usually feel that prison is too soft, which is why many offenders would choose it over probation anyday, but many here would also like to see offenders out on the streets in hazard vests or distinctive jumpsuits doing work in the community to improve things for everyone.

And Prison Doc - how do the recent riots detract from the UK's record on criminal justice? The counrty has been working together as a whole to identify rioters (something that would be less likely in the US with its culture of not "snitching"), the courts were working 24/7 to process those arrested, and many of them will be receiving the type of community sentences that the Grits post highlighted.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the great percentage of inmates are incarcerated due to drug offenses means that nothing will change until we address the insane drug policy in this country.

We can all sit here and ponder this-and-that til we die, but as long as we have such barbaric laws against drugs, nothing can possibly change.

Over the past few years we have seen otherwise productive and law abiding citizens be arrested and sent to prison for something as trivial as a pain pill. It's almost funny when someone describes to me their shock when a police officer searches their purse and finds one single pill, and arrests them for possessing it. The only thing funnier is the gleeful expression on that officer's face as he jumps up and down celebrating his felony collar of the day...Sickening.

A Texas PO said...

While on court duty a few weeks back, I came across a 19-year old young man who entered a plea for 15 years in TDC. The judge asked him if he wanted probation and he emphatically stated, "No." I had a chance to ask him afterwards why he did not want probation, and he told me that it was too hard, even though he had never been on probation. I wished him luck, but this broke my heart.

I've been doing this job for a while now and have worked with everything from DWLI cases to murderers and rapists. I've seen some low-risk offenders make insanely stupid decisions that landed them in prison, and I've seen high-risk "career criminals" make extreme positive changes in their lives and successfully complete probation and not return. We have an opportunity in Texas and in this country to effect profound changes in the lives of families that will leave a lasting legacy. However, based on our public policy, you wouldn't know it.

Texas has put a lot into probation to get a return on that $2.92/day investment and in recent years we've finally seen evidence-based practices and smart reforms enacted, but there's still so much more to do and it all comes down to money. As Grits noted in the post and the comments, even if we increased probation funding for programs and treatment, we'd still be spending less than we currently do on prisons. I definitely would like to see probation officer salaries across the state rise based on performance (I've seen some really awesome and effective officers struggling to raise their families on less than $25k/yr while some really bad officers are making more than $40k/yr) in order to promote good work and attract good people. I'd like to see the probation fee be reduced to less than $10/month (or gone all together). I'd like to see fees for mandatory programs (like DOEP, DWI Ed and DWI Intervention, just to name a few) disappear. And most importantly, I'd like to see probation officers have the opportunity to step away from their desks and head out into the community in order to actually supervise people in the community. There's been way too much emphasis on casework and not enough on direct supervision (I know TDCJ-CJAD and many CSCD administrators will deny this, but most officers are told that field work is important, but this or that needs to be taken care of in the office first, or they are told that they would need to flex off any overtime accrued during field work in order to avoid earning comp time, but then are told that they need to spend their 40-hour work week in the office... a bit of a conflict there, don't ya think?). I get the importance of having a well-maintained and documented file, but study after study has shown that a field presence and meeting with an offender and his/her family in the home has a greater impact than a once monthly visit to the office.

We've got a lot of room for change here. I just hope the current practices of this industry don't push out the good folks with the desire to do good work with these potential tax-paying productive citizens.

Blue_in_Guadalupe said...

It seems most of the commenters agree that the UK example should be followed so what do we do as voters to make it happen? Where does it start? Should we be contacting legislators or the news media? Is there a specific advocacy group that is working on this topic? Analysis without action is pointless.

Anonymous said...

Probation will never deter crime in the way that incarceration deters crime, plain and simple. If you look at crime trends, crime began trending down in the mid 90s and has been trending down for over a decade. Significant reform took place in the 90s and there is no doubt it was a success. Now liberals are arguing that you can maintain lower crime rates while at the same time incarcerating fewer people....complete nonsense.

We are returning to the policies of the 70s and 80s that resulted in an unprecedented increase in crime.

Texas Maverick said...

Blue: Yes, you can help. contact your state reps, send them this link, better yet, take the reports to their office. Look up the members of the Corrections Committee, send each of them a letter even if you aren't in their district. YOU can make a difference. Don't get discouraged, keep at it. Get to know your reps and they will listen to you. Get to know their staff. Go to Austin and testify when bills come up. We can make a difference. Don't forget the federal level because much of what is done on the state level is to comply with Fed. legislation and "get the grants" that come along to implement the legislation. It can become a full time job, just like Grits does but it's worth the effort. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:34, if incarceration is the end-all-be-all you say, why is it, then, that US states with the highest incarceration rates also have higher crime rates? Why do states closing prison and reducing incarceration rates see GREATER crime reductions than states like TX and LA that incarcerate the most? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

Blue in Guadalupe, contacting your legislators before next session is a great start, and even better would be to present the report/ideas to the local DA, judges and commissioners court. As far as advocacy groups, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Effective Justice are both working on these topics.

As for what to do about the media, that's a bigger problem. One can try to educate them, but IMO US journalism needs a soup-to-nuts reconsideration of how crime is covered, for reasons hinted at in the Osborne piece.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Anonymous 9/14/2011 4:41pm
I was trying to be funny using the connection between our Governor and Texas A&M in a National Championship. I’m a UT alumni, hook’em horns.

Anonymous said...

Grits, correlation doesn't constitute causation. Are you saying that high crime rates in Texas is a result of a high incarceration rate? DO you think that there may be other factors involved? I wonder what impact the incarceration of illegals has on the Texas incarceration rate. I bet it is significant. So don't go comparing Texas to another State when they may not be dealing with similiar issues. Lousianna is a poor / entitlement driven State. I am sure that plays a huge part in the crime rate....not the fact that they have a high incarceration rate.

I find it odd that you would use UK as an example when everything that I have been reading from the UK blames their permissiveness towards crime for the recent riots.

Anonymous said...

I have seen many who either choose incarceration over probation because its "too hard," or else they comply for a short time then give up "because I'll end up in jail anyway."

It IS harder- but if folks are given a choice? they'll take the easy way out.

Anonymous said...

People choose incarceration over probation because they know they can't comply with the terms of probation and incarceration is inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon, I re-read your comment and now realize that you make perfect sense.

Please accept my apology for publicly berating you in which resulted in temporarily detracting Grits readers from the blog topic.

Kevin Stouwie said...

The UK study may not have all the answers for our problems in the Texas criminal justice system, but the key distinction seems to be that their definition of probation is far more involved, and is likely more effective, than our own.

The "lock 'em up and throw away the key" crowd needs to be forced to see the cost of their ideology before they'll be convinced to move to a "more involved" form of probation. This will take time, but it's a laudable undertaking.

However, it never ceases to amaze me what triggers some of these very long periods of incarceration that costs us so much, in dollars, and in families being ripped apart, etc. etc.

Often, a person gets probation as a "just" punishment for his crime. The crime that gets probation is generally one where a definite violation of the penal code occurred, but the consequences were minor.

Ten years seems to be the most popular length of probation given to offenders. Privately, prosecutors confide that most of these folks will never make it to the end of the ten years, because of either the drug tests, the probation fees, the mandatory meetings with P.O.s, not leaving the county or state, not being convicted of another crime, any crime, etc. etc.etc.

Then, following a couple of minor mistakes, in the months or years that follow the initial plea deal that got the probation sentence, something will trigger the MTR (Motion to Revoke Probation). The MTR is filed and the prosecutor and Judge look down on the poor guy standing at the bench and lament the fact that "You had a chance given to you, and now you blew it, you screwed up, so now you must pay."

Then, depending on how cold hearted and politically insecure the Judge is, the guy gets approximately ten years in TDCJ for failing a couple of UA's, or missing a couple of meetings with his P.O., committing a misdemeanor, or some other similar nonsense.

That's just insane, in my opinion. But, that's what we have here in Texas.

College Cop said...

The UK? You mean that country that has worse crime rates than most of the rest of the developed world, including the United States?

That should not in anyway be misconstrued to suggest I think everyone needs locking up (the ability to write citations rather than arrest, for example, is a great thing) or that I think high incarceration rates are good (they aren't), but the UK is a terrible place to look for suggestions......

sunray's wench said...

College Cop ~ consider the source. The Telegraph (a noted Right-leaning newspaper) quoting Civitas, whose main aim is to:

"offer primary education for children who are falling behind at school and unable to afford the most costly private alternatives; and second, we provide teaching materials and speakers for schools. Our research and educational work is designed to facilitate informed public debate on important issues of the day by producing objective and balanced publications and arranging seminars and conferences to stimulate mutual learning through open discussion."

So, a right-leaning media outlet is quoting an education-focused charity and putting it all together to say that UK crime rates are the worst pretty much anywhere.

Balance that with the British Crime Survey, which is what most statistics and government policy is based on in the UK when it comes to crime:

Which usually states that people are more worried about certain crimes than the actual instances of them experiencing those crimes.

In general, we have a higher population than Texas, yet we lock up significantly less people, noatbly in older prisons but with better facilities.

No one is saying that Texas should adopt the UK's attitudes and practices wholesale, but taking some of the things that do work here and seeing if they could bring you fiscal and social results there really isn't as crazy as it might sound.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:37, the impact of illegals IS significant - it makes our crime rate LOWER than it would otherwise be because they're statistically far less likely to commit crimes.

As for public opinion on crime in the UK after the riots, that's a good example of why Osborne said "consulting opinion pollsters is surely one of the worst imaginable methods of devising a criminal justice policy" and blamed the media for framing the debate in a slanted way.

Kevin, I couldn't agree more about probation terms being too long. Part of Texas' 2007 probation reforms was to let 3rd degree felons and below earn their way off probation with good behavior, and IMO that ought to be expanded. We supervise so many people on probation and parole they can't focus sufficient resources on higher-risk offenders.

Finally @ College Cop, you need to look more closely at those data. Their murder rate is 1.4 per 100,000 compared to 5.6 in the US. Further, the actual report cited in the story (see here, p. 26) doesn't support your conclusion for rapes, e.g., showing the US has a higher rate than England and Wales. The UK's numbers were higher for total assaults, but the US rate was MUCH higher for MAJOR assaults (281.6 per 100,000 compared to 32 per in England and Wales, see pp. 37 and 38 of the pdf). You need to look at the report itself instead of accepting claims about it from a conservative media outlet. Robbery and burglary rates are the two areas where the they're substantially higher than us, but those are also two of the crimes with the lowest reporting rates here in the US. I'd guess that has a lot to do with the difference.

The UK has three times our population or so and locks up about half the folks we do. Their citizens are 25% as likely as Americans to be murdered. If they're a "terrible" place to look for suggestions, the only worse place to look is probably to government workers in Texas sucking on the criminal justice teat.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, thanks to you & TM for the list of folks to contact.

Re: Probation in general. Probation is one foot in and one foot out. Guilty or not, attorneys/lawyers/public defenders/court appointed plead out 95% of the time. Advising clients to plea-bargain for probation under the guise of; *get out of jail and save your family the cost of a trial, *get out of jail and avoid a possible stiff sentence for something you didn't do, *get out of jail and complete the term and live like it never happened or remain incarcerated. To name a few.

Probation can be a very effective deterrent & punishment tool if utilized correctly. The opposite is obtained when allowed to morph into a statewide racket where anyone with a law degree can take a criminal case. Sadly, the majority never intends to take it all the way to verdict, instead end up charging to get you off on probation. Hopefully, taxpayers will eventually wake up in mass and realize that reforming a broken criminal justice system must include; preventing abuses of the Probation privileged by attorneys/lawyers.

One sure fire way would be to mandate that one be ‘qualified’ and ‘certified’ to consult / represent criminal clients in all stages including to verdict and requiring that the results of any & all investigations be filed along with the entire case files. Resulting in attorneys / lawyers being forced to do their jobs. A positive side effect would be a drastic drop in crime rates, probation rolls & MTRs. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

For one, I have to say that probation is Texas is indeed a joke. I was on probation in Collin County a couple of years aog and with a few....and I do mean few...exceptions, the probation officers were a joke. I recall while sitting in the waiting room to see my probation officer other probationers would talk about how their officers were clueless about state laws, constitutional rights, local ordinances, probation terms and most importantly how to deal with a probationer on a one-on-one basis. The Plano office was staffed by what looked like a bunch of fresh out of college sorroity girls trying to act "tough" with probationers. It was basically a see your officer once-a-month paper processing meeeting. The officers were untrained and unprofessional for the most part and my understand was that the turnover for officers was very high.

If Texas wants to have an effective probation system, then it needs to divert more funds for more officers and most importantly better hiring and training practices.

BarkGrowlBite said...

I've got this to say to the anonymous stoner who wrote, "Over the past few years we have seen otherwise productive and law abiding citizens be arrested and sent to prison for something as trivial as a pain pill."

You are absolutely full of shit!

There is no one in prison who got busted for one pill, or 10 pills for that matter. There is no one in prison for getting busted with a few joints. And there are very few people in prison for possessing small amounts of coke or meth.

And all the claims that prisons are full of people who are drug addicts reminds me of when I was much younger. Then the claim was not about drugs, but about alcohol.

Whether they are drug addicts or not, our prisons are full of people who committed murder, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, multiple burglaries, multiple felony thefts, etc.

Those who are serving time for drug offenses are not in prison for smoking a couple of joint. They are doing time for substantial sales of drugs and not for simple possession. If they are in prison for possession, they got busted for sales and plea bargained down to a lesser offense for a shorter sentence.

So, Mr. Stoner Anonymous, take your plea to legalize drugs and shove it where the sun don't shine!

sunray's wench said...

Scott - I think possibly the reason why burglaries and thefts are reported more here than in the US is because more people here have property (we call it "contents") insurance, and you have to have a crime number in order for the insurance company to swing into action. The premiums are relatively cheap, basic cover can be had for a few pounds a month, and often the policy includes accidental damage on a new-for-old basis. Social housing organisations often negotiate even cheaper deals with an insurance company for their tenants.

Anonymous said...

BarkGrowl, you are totally clueless. I could list the names and SID of over 100,000 who are currently incarcerated here in Texas for minor drug offenses. I'm currently representing the middle-aged grandmother on the state jail felony charge of possessing that one pain pill. Sure, I'll keep her out of prison, for now, but if she is unfortunate to get stopped again and another single pill is found in her purse, she will most definitely be incarcerated.

I'm going to assist you in becoming an educated member of this forum. Just click the following link and type in common names. Then look at their offense history which details their sentence and their charge.

You should research the facts before calling someone out who lives the facts everyday. By not doing so you illustrate that you don't care for the facts, and just believe what you want to believe.

Anonymous said...

My son was sent to TDCJ because the cop said he found drug paraphanelia (sp?) and 1 methadone pill in the trunk of a rental car he was driving. He was 20 years old and put on a 10-year probation 2 years before for being at the wrong place at the wrong time-he had no problems with the probation,except the total inconvience of the meetings. When he was arrested for one Methadone pill, he decided not to waste money fighting it- he was ready to "just go do his time". He is due to be released this November.

TDCJ is truly a criminal college. I have seen my son develop a "criminal mind" over the past four years, it's enevitable for the young, non-violent offenders.

Stop forcing these kids to have criminal behavior/thoughts shoved down their throats everyday of their miserable, TDCJ lives.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BGB, not to go round about this too much, but this statement is flat-out false: "If they are in prison for possession, they got busted for sales and plea bargained down to a lesser offense for a shorter sentence." Just ain't so.

BarkGrowlBite said...

I beg your pardon Grits, but I spent 38 years in and around the criminal justice system, and most of those inmates doing time for 'possession' were busted either for 'possession with intent to sell' or for actual drug sales. They did have their charges plea bargained down to a lesser offense and you ought to know that!

And to the anonymous lawyer who is representing that middle-aged grandmother, I sure don't need any assistance from - as they say: The only difference between a lawyer and a liar is the spelling!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Say what you like, BGB, the data don't support you. In Houston until Pat Lykos became DA they'd prosecute state-jail felony possession cases for burned out residue on a crack pipe.

sunray's wench said...

Maybe California is just different to Texas, BGB?

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

I know a young lady who at 17 had less than a gram of coke. Got stopped, and being Hispanic the racist white cop searched the car and found the drugs. She disagreed with the methodology of probable cause and in the conversation the officer got more asinine and was accidently barely slapped by this little 90 pound 17 year old Hispanic girl while attempting to arrest her. Having no financial resources the judge working in our lazy ass criminal justice system thought a quick trip to Hackberry’s SAFPF mind jack program would move the case along. And what happens when you place a Hispanic female of relative average intelligence in a place that has been profiteering from abusing woman and children for over 7 generations? Well needless to say it didn’t work out for her. The judge gave her 10 years flat for beating up the cop and 25 years for less than a gram of coke. She has been in that cursed depravity now for almost 20 years. Women don’t get paroled as fast as the men because of the numbers game the TDCJ people have to play to keep their job corps running.

Bark Growl and Byte, I think it really depends on the angle you look at our criminal justice mashugas. Did she need to go to prison, perhaps. Did the crime fit the punishment, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy employed by TDCJ, let alone incarcerated, especially in Gatesville. If Texas continues its war on its citizens using the criminal justice system as it has we could have a Shoah of our own. So the questions becomes, how can we the people of this great state stop this assault on our children’s future while at the same time provide non skilled jobs for people who are currently forced to work in criminal justice? Vote intelligently as opposed to voting according to party or color lines.

About the stoner comment,
Anyone intelligent enough to think outside the box regarding the history behind criminalizing marijuana would be FOR decriminalizing marijuana. IMO, if Randolph Hearst were alive today, the internet would be criminalized and the our citizenry would be programmed to think it was from the devil.

As reality proves time and again the only difference between a criminal justice emp and an inmate is the uniform. Convicts excluded of course.

Paul-United Kingdom said...

For all you who may be interested here are the guidelines for sentencing in the Magistrates Courts in the UK which deals with 97% of criminal cases.

Anonymous said... seems to me that you are yet another bad product of an environment of your own choosing....that of the Criminal Justice system which you seem to enjoy bragging about.

With your attitude I can at least be thankful that you never became a judge, for if you had God only knows how many kids you would have sent up the river for something as trivial as getting caught smoking a joint.

You should take your smug attitude and go preach your outdated and twisted message elsewhere. I am sure some up and coming DA looking to make a name for themself would love to hear your load of BS.

Anonymous said...

People do go to prison for having one pill. There are over zealous prosecutors. There are many judges who rubber stamp plea agreements. There are court appointed attorneys who barely represent their clients. Probation officers are underpaid. Many of them wish they were cops and need to go do that, be a cop and get out of the probation business. Probationers pay fees in order to keep probation departments operational and that is sad but true. CJAD Research and Development personnel are clueless about what CJAD Budget personnel do and vice versa, that is red tape and is also sad but true. In order to effect change, there has to be adequate funding. Until the electorate realize community supervision does more good than imprisonment for the vast majority of those committing crimes in an over-criminalized society, prison will always be the answer albeit the wrong answer for so many offenders. DOEP, DWI-E, etc. are DSHS Programs. Cost for those Programs will never go away. Texas is too large of a State to have any consistency whatsoever regarding community supervision.

Anonymous said...

The "joke" is that Texas only invests $2.92 in to Probation vs. $50/day in prison. Can you even buy a hamburger and coke anywhere for $2.92

But... then again Probation probably doesn't have as much pork to hand out to "Cronies" compared to the prison system. It is big buisness!!

A Texas PO said...

You're right, Anon 3:92pm. Probation doesn't have much "pork" to spread around. In fact, most CSCDs are operating with little room for error. It's always seemed odd to me that the population that has been hit the hardest by the economic downturn is responsible for covering 2/3 or more of the operating budget of CSCDs. I absolutely hate the funding structure in this state.